As a dietitian or nutritionist, have you noticed an increase in referrals for female health conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome? If you’re feeling unsure about how to support these clients, you’re not alone.
But it’s great news that female health is finally getting the recognition it deserves. As a result, you may find yourself working with more and more women who are dealing with PCOS, Endometriosis, or abnormal menstrual cycles.
It is important to remember and consider who they are and to treat the person first. Take a moment to ask what got them to a point of reaching out to you? After all, a positive experience with a health professional amidst a long and frustrating journey can make all the difference.
You could be the first to talk to them about nutrition for PCOS; or you could be the 104th!
So here are the key things to consider:
1. Lead with empathy.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes. They may have gone through a difficult journey to get their diagnosis, and they may be feeling a range of emotions such as:
Lead with empathy and prioritise listening to their needs and concerns.
2. Understand their relationship with food.
- Have they felt pressure to lose weight?
- Do they have any disordered eating or eating disorder behaviours or thoughts?
- Are they experiencing guilt or shame around food decisions?
- Do they use food to help manage their emotions?
- What are their current food beliefs associated with PCOS – what have they read, or heard and how do they feel about that information?
Remember that asking your client about their current relationship with food can take some time. As it’s often wrapped up in years of misunderstanding themselves, their body, and food.
3. Help them build better body image.
Our relationship with food goes hand in hand with our relationship with our body. If your client feels safe and ready, ask, assess, and help your client navigate their feelings with their body.
- Have they experienced weight gain or changes in body shape?
- Are they comparing themselves to others or to their previous self?
- How do they feel about the pressure to lose weight?
- Are they trying to change their body. If so, why?
4. Be the source of their support and hope.
This is a confusing time for your clients. What’s more, these women may feel betrayed by themselves and their body’s. Remember that you are a source of hope for your client. Furthermore, you are a source of hope for their fertility, to relieve and manage symptoms, to ease the confusion, shame and guilt, and to regain trust and confidence in their body.
Because your support is a crucial part of their journey, so approach each conversation with care and compassion.
Lastly, your support is such an important piece of their journey.
If you’re not sure how to approach these conversations and also want to learn about how to tie in the PCOS science with the person first approach consider taking our latest Compeat Academy course. Where we cover how to create safe environments and delve into the nitty gritty of female health including PCOS, Endometriosis & menstruation.